Chris

I’m feeling like a jerk that I want to write a thoughtful post about my cousin Chris and this is the only picture I have of him. (The cousin pictured giving him an unconventional back rub is now 15, so it’s also outdated). Still, it makes me smile, and Chris makes me smile, so maybe it’s apt.

Chris and Kayla

In yet another demonstration that life is unpredictable, and that bad things happen to good people, last week Chris fell from his truck getting ready to go out and de-ice the streets and sustained a head injury. Two brain bleeds, unpredictable and dangerous swelling inside his skull. Ugh.

Obviously hearing the words “traumatic brain injury” is like a punch to the stomach. Still, we all feel like he’s in there. Part of the reason the swelling in his skull seems to be so bad is that he’s fighting the medication. When his dad went into his room and said, “Keep fighting”, it was followed by a spike in the intracranial pressure. On the other hand, when one of the extra sweet nurses was in the room, the pressure lowered a bit. When Chris’s coworker found him after the fall, Chris nodded and responded with a hand squeeze when the coworker asked, “Can you hear me?”

I want to believe it’s okay, because what else can I do? He’s a great, great, great man. Kind and goofy and responsible and thoughtful. Being in a school of public health with medical professionals I can talk to has been a godsend. Everyone keeps saying that when he’s woken up (whenever that may be, things have been unpredictable) how he is upon waking won’t be who he is after some time and physical therapy. As my professor said, the body knows how to reabsorb blood from the brain, it just takes time.

In the meantime, I’m trying to feel connected to my family from far away, and debating whether to go up (right now no one except his immediate family can talk to Chris- that and a few other sources of emotional drama this week are making it hard for me to feel capable of making the drive right now). I’m also soaking up my phone conversations with my mom and sister (multiple times a day) and the many shows of support from everyone- distant family, old friends, church friends, teachers, classmates. People who would run into Chris at the hardware store have started coming to visit him at the hospital- that’s how much love this good person has inspired.

I also had this moment in the study room at school, just a few minutes after I had discovered what happened to Chris. There, in this study room I’d happened to pick, next to the seat where I happened to be, indoors, in January, was this ladybug, a powerful good luck omen. I want to believe this means something.

IMG_1893

Sending your thoughts and prayers Chris’s way would be appreciated!

a delicious start to 2015

I said goodbye to my family and headed back to North Carolina in the end of December to get my car inspected on the last possible day because I am incredibly irresponsible have a few days at home before classes started up again.

Steve and I traditionally spend the holidays with our families and then have “our Christmas” on New Year’s Eve. We started with a festive appetizer; Steve’s bike buddy works at the lovely City Kitchen and gave him a coupon for a free app; then since Steve would’ve felt racked with guilt otherwise, we got an additional app.

I loved their beautiful cheese plate!

IMG_1697

Mussels as well.

IMG_1698

But the real New Year’s culinary events began in Steve’s apartment. I found a Scandinavian cookbook at the thrift/antique store and knew my Swede-ophile boyfriend would be excited.

We wanted to create the spirit in this picture.

IMG_1512

Steve planned a stunner of a menu which we cooked together.

IMG_1700

Steve did most of the legwork on the most ambitious project: Swedish meatballs. “Meat” balls rather, since Steve is trying to eat mostly vegetarian. He combined a recipe found online for the ball part- it included vital wheat gluten, almond flour, nutritional yeast, and tomato paste, among quite a few other things- and the recipe for Swedish meatball sauce from the book (hint: mostly butter and sour cream. You know it was good). I took the lead on that cucumber salad on the right which took like five minutes to make- just salt, sugar, and vinegar for a quick pickle. So good! Nice and clean and light and acidic to contrast with some of the richer elements of the meal.

IMG_1709

A long but still very easy and very worth it project was this beet soup. Basically you boil beets in water til tender and peel them. Then chop them. Then add them to a pan with a browned flour and butter roux, hot broth, a little bit of vinegar, and a little bit of sugar. That’s it. And cook them in it for two hours. And darn it if it wasn’t fantastic. It reduced down so much that the beet flavor was really concentrated and intense and mellow. And of course we put sour cream on top and it was booooomb.

IMG_1702

We also made some unconventional deviled eggs. Steve cooked them and I stuffed them. Fun fact: apparently in Sweden instead of mixing the egg yolks with mayonnaise, you mix them with pure butter. This was quite rich indeed!

IMG_1707

The other secret ingredient was shrimp. The recipe told you to buy canned small shrimp (…?) and then mix their juice (ew) with the egg yolks before adding the butter. So we bought and cooked regular shrimp, then chopped them up and mixed them into the egg filling. Much less weird.

IMG_1706

The eggs, like so much we’ve been eating lately, were even more delicious topped with this little condiment, a gift I got for Steve in Asheville. (This was the same shop where I bought my mom ginger tea, which she loves, for Christmas. Have to get all my gifts there now!)

IMG_1713

I will of course mention that we ate our Swedish smorgasboard underneath the flag of Sweden that Steve has hanging prominently in his dining area.

IMG_1714

We stayed up til midnight and watched the countdown on… a computer. (Neither Steve nor I have a TV). It’s slightly cooler because we watched the countdown on a large computer image magnified using Steve’s new projector! Whoo! Anyway, I’m old now and can’t make it up a lot later than midnight.

We started 2015 on a healthy note! Because we had leftover almond flour from making the “meat”balls and neither of us had ever really cooked with it before, we tried this little paleo recipe for almond flour pancakes. They were really good!

IMG_1718

Surprisingly fluffy, given what dense ingredients they had. Satisfying, too. Note: we didn’t finish them all at breakfasttime, and ate a few later in the day, and they were EXTRA ALMONDY! So if and when we make them again we might make them in advance on purpose next time.

IMG_1720

Then we went on a nice active nature ramble. We parked near NC State’s campus where Steve works and walked around on their impressive trails.

IMG_1722

It’s always nice for Steve to start a new year by getting to climb something.

IMG_1724

State has a beautiful LAKE just right there! We had an unseasonably lovely December and first few days of January (no more, alas) and it was soooo nice and relaxing to walk around. And yknow, have a resolution-y active first day of the new year.

IMG_1728

Then I was feeling caffeine deprivation (I think I got readdicted when I was home with the family during break and had lots of time to leisurely drink cup after cup of breakfast tea) so we went to get coffee. We ended up at this bar/restaurant which Steve had been to, just because it was so COOL!

IMG_1729

But again, the real highlight of the day was had via home cooking. Steve’s trivia buddy Mike is amazing and hosts an annual New Year’s Day dinner filled with good luck foods.

This year he made pork shoulder Hawaiian style- the recipe called for roasting it in banana leaves, but he opted to use collards and keep with the New Year good luck foods theme.

IMG_1732

He just made a BIG OLD FEAST. Lots of wine and beer (we and others brought some, too); giant pot of macaroni and cheese; the best collard greens I’ve ever had! Made VEGETARIAN for Mike’s girlfriend and STILL the best I’ve ever had! Without pork fat! They were tangy and tomatoey and oniony and meltingly tender and just SO SO GOOD. Also cornbread, made with what tasted like five sticks of butter or so- just melted in your mouth. Plus hoppin’ John (rice and black eyed peas and tomatoes and spices and I don’t know what else- may’ve been vegetarian too). And spiced pecans that had CRACK in them.

IMG_1733 IMG_1734

My plate. Lots more mac and cheese ensued.

IMG_1737

The meal concluded with pecan pie, which definitely tasted as though it had bourbon in it, and homemade whipped cream. Swooooon.

IMG_1741

home is where the cat is

Home for the holidays was so, so good. I’d been dealing with the same nasty cold virus for going on six weeks and just spent time at home taking medicine (yes, finally going to the doctor was a good idea), reading, and playing with the cat.

Cat moustache!

IMG_1577

Since I’d had so much fun making a gingerbread house with my little boyfriend in North Carolina, I decided I ought to also make one with my charming sister. I did the dough and made the pieces for the structure. Then there was extra dough to make little gingerbread characters. My sister, demonstrating her awesomeness, decided we needed a gingerbread goat. Armed only with a piece of clip art, she made something pretty spectacular.

IMG_1571

IMG_1572

And then we put it all together. I deeply loved my chocolate-covered-espresso-beans front path.

IMG_1588

But I will say again, GET A GINGERBREAD HOUSE KIT. Because those pieces will tidily push up against each other, and be perfectly ready for assembly. When you make your own gingerbread pieces, they bake oddly and puff and warp and don’t create neat perfect seams and corners and things. Furthermore, the royal icing is key, and the only thing that kept this bad boy from falling apart immediately.

So we loved the whimsy of our house, but it collapsed in a matter of days and we couldn’t show it off at our Christmas party as planned.

A mini twix bar was nice for making a chimney to disguise the substantial gap between the two roof pieces.

IMG_1579

Back of the house

IMG_1581

Side of the house

IMG_1583

Front of the house, with Malindi’s goat and beaming Snowman in the front yard. They make me so happy.

IMG_1587

A few other cookies made for Christmas trees and… random giant stars in the yard.

IMG_1590

Malindi and I went and got the tree. Our family always decorates our tree to within an inch of its life. We have a LOT of ornaments! We also had a LOT of presents!

IMG_1594

I always love unpacking this snow globe from Malindi’s godparents when we get out the Christmas stuff. It plays “Here Comes Santa Clause” when you turn the key at the bottom. I just stare at it and think about Christmas.

IMG_1595

I ate well when I was home. I made some twice baked potatoes as part of a clean out the fridge/pantry endeavor. They were good but not great- I think the secret to good twice baked potatoes is just ABSURD amounts of cheese. I put some- in the form of cottage cheese and Swiss- but should’ve put more.

IMG_1597  IMG_1599

Another night we went and hung out at my wonderful aunt Jeanie’s and had a sushi feast.

IMG_1602

Little Scotties would very much like to have some.

IMG_1604

Jeanie does such a wonderful job cultivating an atmosphere for relaxation in her house. I sat by the fire (expertly stoked by my Uncle Tim) reading Cook’s Illustrated.

IMG_1610

Then I COLORED, which was so fun!

IMG_1613 IMG_1612

And then we watched The Wizard of Oz on cable with the doglets, who were SO EXCITED to see a fellow terrier on screen! Then Alice fell asleep. I ask you, have you EVER been this relaxed?!

IMG_1622

Christmas day! We had to keep Sheila entertained. She got a cat toy as a reward for suffering through the vet’s office. It dangles and jingles and is filled with catnip.

IMG_1632

Malindi is cute. Sheila is cute.

IMG_1633

Gettin’ kitty high!

IMG_1635

Then we opened our stockings. Santa had given me a candy cane, which I offered to Sheila. She LOVED it! As my mother pointed out, when batting around a candy cane, it moves in an unpredictable manner. Lots of fun.

IMG_1639

“Get her crazy eyes!” instructed Malindi.

IMG_1640

She broke the candy cane. I’m realizing now I don’t really know what happened to it.

IMG_1642

I ate my traditional Chirstmas morning breakfast of See’s Candy, which my wonderful godparents always send us from Washington State. On the West coast they have the standing See’s stores, where you can buy things that you can’t from the mail order. They had bon bons and things. The ones with pecans on top were like praline crack!

IMG_1643

Then, as is our Christmas tradition, we went to my aunt Kathy’s and uncle Tom’s house for an absolute FEAST! Everything was so beautiful and delicious.

IMG_1644

So many yummy things! Baked brie in puff pastry with fig jam is always binge-able.

IMG_1656

Quiche, strata…

IMG_1646 IMG_1647

More strata… This had asparagus and was really special.

IMG_1648

New York breakfast: brown bread with cream cheese, smoked oysters, smoked salmon, and capers and red onion to sprinkle atop.

IMG_1652

Our contribution was this almond ring made by one of my mom’s fellow voice students. It was filled with almond paste and tasted like heaven. I can never get enough almond paste.

IMG_1649

But the REAL dessert highlight was this cake. My aunt Nan made this anise-y apple cake from Smitten Kitchen and it was soooooooo rich and amazing. It’s flanked by cookies, including some gluten free ones, which my aunt thoughtfully got for my sister’s gluten free boyfriend, who joined us.

IMG_1653

After presents and merriment (launching various items at each other is an important tradition in my extended family, maintained this year by my cousin Steven, who received a small remote-control-operated tank that shot nerf balls) we headed home to regroup, then to celebrate with my dad’s side of the family.

Bodie the dog goes LOVE ME LOVE ME LOVE ME and is a bit of a personal space invader. This picture makes me laugh.

IMG_1657

We always have a party for friends and family the Saturday after Christmas. Since this year Christmas was a Thursday, we only had a day to prepare. Still, we managed to produce quite a feast in that period of time. It was also a really nice experience cooking and cleaning and prepping together. At one point I turned to my sister and marveled, “Nothing has gone crazily wrong today! No one has had a screaming fit! This is so nice!”

The meal included, at left, pickled turnips and eggplants (bought at the Mediterranean store), pigs in a blanket and deviled eggs made by my sister. At right, labneh (Arabic yogurt cheese) and taramosalata (Greek lemony fish roe dip) and pita (also from the Mediterranean store) and more dips detailed below.

IMG_1675

Along with the cheese tray, this photo features the two dips I made. One, at left, was the best baba ghanoush I’ve ever made. Back story: we go to church with a lot of Lebanese and Palestinian women, and they make the BEST smoky, velvety baba ghanoush. We’ve never figured out how to get the eggplant to be so succulent, but finally my mom was spying in the kitchen and got the scoop: they used canned grilled eggplant! Sure enough, we picked it up at the Mediterranean store and I used it to make the best baba ghanoush ever (just mixed it with tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, cumin, and salt).

IMG_1676

The dip at right, featured in a closeup below, was muhammara from Cooking Light, which got demolished! Muhammara is dip red from roasted red peppers, walnuts, spices, and all the other good things. The cheese tray featured selections from Costco’s awesome cheese section- smoked gouda, boursain, and aged cheddar.

IMG_1666

We also made turkey (just in the edge of the picture below) which was wonderful as always because of the brine. We use Cooking Light’s recipe for apple cider brined turkey, and it never fails. We cook it longer than the recipe calls because we had a 22 pound instead of 12 pound turkey, but there are important aspects of the recipe to follow. Start it at high heat, then lower. Start it breast down to let white meat absorb some moisture from above and keep from drying out too soon. Finally, I monitored it during the last hour of cooking because you want to take it out of the oven right when the meat thermometer hits 165 in the thickest part of the thigh. Anyway, we made it, and a ham (bone in, not presliced, for maximum flavor and minimum dryness. Glazed with a mixture of grainy mustard, brown sugar, and apple cider vinegar) and served them with various condiments and rolls (also from Costco, and delicious!). Also, another cheese plate! We like cheese 🙂 This had brie and havarti.

IMG_1672IMG_1674

Of course we also had a lot of desserts. I made vegan peanut butter cookies (left) and macademia butter cookies with dried cranberries from Cooking Light (lower right). My mom bought yummy Arabic date-filled cookies at our church bazaar (upper right).

IMG_1669

I also made gluten free mocha brownies. I totally winged the recipe- it included melted chocolate truffles and butter, almond flour, eggs, Starbucks Via instant coffee, and not much else- and it was REALLY GOOD!

IMG_1670

Finally, my mom made a megabatch of delicious baklava (this was one of like four trays), and my sister made and decorated sugar cookies so perfectly that it was almost suspicious that they weren’t from a bakery or something.

IMG_1671

We had a LOT OF PEOPLE go through our house. Family, old friends (my mom still hangs out with her buddies from college and her first job after graduation, and my sister and I are now friends with their kids, which I love), neighbors, church friends. People did such a nice job mixing, and this year I actually feel like I got quality conversations with everyone I talked to. It was crowded and busy but also really happy and friendly. Also, our new neighbors came and were awesome about sharing their ADORABLE baby. So that was fun!

Then when everyone left we kind of gaped at all the goodies people had brought as hostess gifts.

IMG_1679

Yes, that is literally a dozen bottles of wine. Note the one in the attractive Santa hat and Christmas sweater. Well done, Kathy.

IMG_1683

Sheila was furious with us, as usual, for having strangers in her house. However, she did appreciate the abundance of ribbons they left behind.

IMG_1688  IMG_1691

I left shortly thereafter. Feeling so so revitalized. Mom, sis, and me. I love our family so much.

SubstandardFullSizeRender

getting my apron back on

I don’t love this blog title. It sounds like an anti-feminist manifesto. It is not.

It is about how I’m trying to cook more, in an effort to:
– reconnect with all of the creative and fun aspects I love about cooking
– save money
– eat healthier
– more equally good things, I’m sure

Soooo, at my cohort’s Christmas party, we did one of those white elephant gift exchanges, and I was tickled pink to select a gift I actually LOVE- this is a really good cookbook!

IMG_1528

I progressed in my vow to cook more with this tasty recipe.

IMG_1526

Basically just an entire head of roasted garlic, a can of artichoke hearts, parsley, and a little olive oil. So simple but so good! On delicious bakery bread. Lots of vegetable-centric (not just faux meat and grains) and wholesome looking recipes in this book- I’m excited to explore further.

When I was studying for finals I also made two of my faaavorite things.

IMG_1406

1. Madhur Jaffrey’s Moroccan yellow split pea puree (if you google that you can get most of the recipe, though it’s originally in her superb World Vegetarian cookbook)

2. Carrots chopped and roasted on high heat with olive oil, salt, garlic powder, paprika, and cumin

I seriously never get sick of these two things. Both taste too yummy to be good for you.

IMG_1409

Since Steve and I would be traveling to our respective families, we decided to enjoy our last December evening together in NC by cooking something fancy!

I made a proper cheese sauce, which I hadn’t done in awhile. My wonderful mother taught me how to make a basic roux, then white sauce, then cheese sauce for delicious homemade pasta. Those lessons stick with ya!

IMG_1550

This sauce included a roux of equal parts butter and flour, whole milk (Steve’s purchase, of course), fontina cheese, and gorgonzola. It made a nice coat on the spoon…

IMG_1552

And a swipe through held its shape, but not too rigidly (the sauce stayed smooth and not curdled- key!)

IMG_1553

While I was on cheese sauce duty, Steve did most of the work, as he was the originator of the menu idea. He cooked shrimp in lotttts of garlic, which smelled fab.

IMG_1556

We cooked up fancy whole wheat pasta from Weaver Street market, and Steve cooked up some spinach in yet more garlic and olive oil. The real highlight, however, was our Christmas gift from Myra and Alex, who heard a rumor that Steve loves truffle oil. This was the real deal- not just truffle “flavored” oil (which is still totally delicious, incidentally) and made for some really delicious pasta!

IMG_1557

Steve put a ton of extra parmesan on his, but I was happy to just enjoy mine with some black pepper. This was SO creamy and decadent and special!

IMG_1559

ciao for now, carolina

My last few days in NC before heading home for winter break (dude, I feel like the luckiest person in the world, being back in school and getting a winter break) were kind of weird. It was a mix of delightful festivities, horrible illnesses, and intense academic moments.

The last day of class ended with UNC Holiday Party Number One. Our whole department was invited to the fancy shmancy Carolina Inn. Lovely decor, pretty Christmas tree, good company.

IMG_1397

(got there like five minutes early after getting coffee with a classmate, so this is before a lot of people arrived)(but see the ones who had below- haha my program is like 95% female)

IMG_1399

There was a fancifully shaped table of appetizers.

IMG_1400

Only at a nutrition department gathering is the vegetable plate the first thing to be decimated. (These were really good. It feels like such a luxury to have grilled vegetables in the winter months. Things like asparagus and zucchini were surprisingly good, given the season).

IMG_1401

One of my classmates had taken a roundabout route to get to the party room and said elsewhere in the inn there were awesome gingerbread creations. We naturally went to check them out. The Carolina Inn in miniature. All edible. Crazy. (See my deeply less good gingerbread creation later in this post!)

IMG_1404

The next few days should have been spent gearing up for finals. Like, yknow, studying. Or at the very least trying to catch up on sleep and get some mental rest to go into finals feeling fresh.

However, then there was the horrible stomach flu (mentioned at the end of the previous post). When the puking began, before the outbreak was traced to the adorable toddler (thanks to public health detective work, oy), my first thought was, “Oh NO! I can’t go to the delicious Mexican place again!”

Fortunately, the succulence below, enjoyed as a weekend lunch with Steve, was not what poisoned me (though I’ll confess I may take awhile to get there again, since I did get sick immediately after).

Regardless of the illness incubating in my stomach (okay this is gross, I’ll stop now) this truly was the best shrimp taco of my life- homemade tortilla, fresh and flavorful salsa, perfectly shredded cabbage, tangy and rich queso fresco, perfectly seasoned and grilled shrimp. Plus a sope with yummy refried beans, more cabbage and cheese, and lovely crema.

IMG_1488

Split some perfect, flavorful guacamole with Steve. He thoroughly enjoyed his quesadilla and gordita.

IMG_1489

The ensuing (unrelated) sickness really is keeping me from being able to describe this place with the enthusiasm it deserves. The most fresh tasting Mexican food I’ve ever had. Cute little family business.

Garlic hanging over the door.

IMG_1487

Fresh young coconut on the counter.

IMG_1484

Sadly, however, I entered 48 hours of… badness. As in, I went to the doctor for my cold while I was home over break, and weighed 9 pounds less than the last time I’d been weighed. Eesh! (Yes, I had a cold before, during, and after my stomach flu. It seems deeply unfair.)

Of course, again, this stomach horror took place during FINALS WEEK. I had an 8 am biostats final and I contemplated my computer as I tried to imagine taking the bus to campus without hurling all over it. What to do what to do?! Fortunately, in a scurry of emails, my public-health minded professor realized that she and my classmates would vastly prefer if my sick self avoided them. So I stayed home and gingerly drank pedialyte. Like, only pedialyte. It was the kind of sickness where drinking water sounded horrifying. Thank God for advice from my roommate’s physician’s assistant boyfriend.

When I had (semi) recovered, after 36 hours or so, I was still unable to cook. I decided to go to Panera and take advantage of the WiFi to do some Biostats studying. Half a grilled cheese on white bread, squash soup (which I did surprisingly well with), an apple (which I saved for later because I didn’t want to push my luck) and ginger tea. This was manageable.

IMG_1490

I took the Biostats test 52 hours late in the administrative office (where the admin kept sweetly fetching me bottles of water and Kleenex), and all was well. Whew. Since I was already on campus, I went to some of the master’s paper presentations for the third year students in my program. It was awesome!

IMG_1495

To me, the most fascinating (and depressing) presentation was a case study about patients who suffer from both Type 1 diabetes and anorexia. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed during adolescence, when body image issues can also start to rise. And, proper management of Type 1 diabetes involves a certain amount of obsessiveness about food, counting carbs and so on. Plus, starting insulin therapy can lead to weight gain, and there’s a temptation for anorexics to withhold insulin in order to stop gaining weight. It was fascinating, and pretty depressing.

IMG_1496

Class was officially dunzo, which meant it was time for my cohort (someone pointed out to me how public health-y it was that we called ourselves that) to get our party on! Ugly sweaters, festive head coverings, and penguin onesies were all highly encouraged.

IMG_1502IMG_1500

And the delectable party selections would never lead you to suspect that we were nutrition students! Lots of sweets and lots of (mostly unpictured) booze. Though that large chocolate cake roughly in the center of the table had beets in the cake and avocado in the frosting. Interesting!

IMG_1505

The next few days I didn’t have any particular appetite. While this was a sign of illness, it meant that I had a weight deficit going into Christmas (which was quickly counteracted with billions of Christmas cookies) so at least it was a conveniently timed illness.

I tried to make my meager meals not just the desserts above- I had a nice virtuous veggie plate at Weaver Street Market.

IMG_1410

Roasted brussels sprouts, cheesy mashed potatoes, cooked greens with a soy-sauce-y-sauce, Szechuan tofu, and vegetarian hoppin’ john.

Also spent some time in Raleigh with Steve once class was done. I stopped at the Indian grocery store (Cary, just outside Raleigh, has a big Indian population and it’s great if you, like me, love shopping at Indian grocery stores for their fantastic and cheap spices and legumes) to get Christmas goodies (curry powder for my aunt, who asks for it every Christmas; delicious British candy for stocking stuffers, etc.) and was feeling a bit light headed so I just had to get a little something at the bakery 🙂 It is vast! I love Indian sweets- interesting things done with cashew, rice flour, semolina, rose water, coconut, sweetened cheese.

IMG_1510

Both times I have gotten this little item I’ve been convinced it’s a stuffed date, and it isn’t: it’s what seems to be kind of a rosewater soaked semolina cake with a sweet nutty and/or cheesy filling? It’s yummy! I just don’t totally know what it is.

IMG_1509

Steve and I got dinner in downtown Raleigh and I got yet another grilled cheese- this was apples and cheddar on french toast-ed bread.

IMG_1513

They brought me the wrong side by accident, so I got pasta salad along with I’d actually ordered, chickpea salad, which was really good and in a creamy sauce. (That other thing next to the sandwich is a pile of bacon- I knew I didn’t want the bacon included in the sandwich but rather than “waste” it I got it on the side so Steve could eat it :D)

IMG_1515

Another gorgeous old Raleigh building.

IMG_1519 IMG_1520

We peeked across the street at a festively decorated pub.

IMG_1521

But ended up at a low-key bar with live music up the street. And I played darts for the first time! Fun fact: I am terrible at darts (this is not surprising). Fun fact: Steve is weirdly good at darts (this is also not surprising. Steve is weirdly good at everything involving bodily coordination. You should see the kid bowl).

IMG_1523

I think the most fun part of the weekend was when we had my other boyfriend over to decorate a gingerbread house.

IMG_1529 IMG_1530

See all those pretty windows and the chimney and the perfectly angled roof and so on? That’s cause we bought a KIT, and that’s what I’m always doing from now on! It’s like $8, available at any grocery store, includes a TON of royal icing (which is hard to make from scratch and involves raw egg whites, something one wants to avoid after a recent stomach bug) in an easy-to-use piping bag, includes decorating candy, has a tray on which to display everything, and the pieces are perfectly constructed (you’ll see evidence of how this is not guaranteed with the homemade stuff in a later post…)

There were also cute gingerbread people, trees, and snowmen to decorate, an activity the five year old enjoyed.

IMG_1531

I’m responsible for this odd looking section of the roof- started thinking it could be pretty but it looks like something out of a horror movie, huh?

IMG_1538

Anyway, the final house/yard/people/scene ended up looking SUPER cute, in my opinion! And the whole undertaking was less than, say, 45 minutes, which works well for short youthful attention spans. I highly recommend this activity for kids! Anyone, actually, it was really fun 🙂

IMG_1541 IMG_1543  IMG_1545    IMG_1549

(special props to Steve for the cute marshmallow fencing around the yard!)

My last day in town went sort of differently than I’d expected (cars… check engine lights… still haven’t gotten my inspection, heh) so I ended up spending a big chunk of the day idling on the lawn of Weaver Street Market. Since it was a glorious day, everyone was outside and it was a really nice way to say a temporary goodbye to my adopted town and prepare to travel to my home one.

IMG_1568

I’ll leave you with a picture of the adorable Christmas card from the little boy pictured above.

IMG_1507

I found that taped to my front door, and my little buddy asked me if I’d liked it. “I loved it, sweetie! Thank you so much!”. His followup question was, “Did you like the Scarecrow?”

Why yes. I love this playful scarecrow. Now that I know what this charming image is, I’ll leave you with it 🙂

IMG_1508